Examination: Request for Order to Dissolve the Family Federation, Runaway Politics and Media (2) Opposition Parties Inciting Rampage

Utilization of State Power for Assault on a Religious Organization

The government changing its interpretation of the Religious Corporations Act will naturally affect all religious corporations. The conventional requirement for requesting a dissolution order of a religious corporation was explicitly interpreted as committing “an act that is in violation of the prohibitive or imperative norms established by the Penal Code or other laws and regulations, and that is clearly found to harm public welfare substantially” in Article 81, paragraph 1, item 1 of the aforementioned Act, along with  item 2 which states, “an act which deviates substantially from the purpose of a religious organization prescribed in the provisions of Article 2” (Tokyo High Court, December 19, 1995). However, the interpretation of the first item was changed overnight under the administration of Fumio Kishida to “include illegal acts under the Civil Code” (Prime Minister Kishida’s response at the House of Councilors Budget Committee, October 19, 2022).

The right to raise questions requesting dissolution orders of all religious corporations, not only the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU; formerly the Unification Church, or the Family Federation), has expanded in a blink of an eye. That is how much the state’s power has strengthened over religion. According to statistics from the Religious Affairs Division of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, there are approximately 180,000 religious corporations in the country, and the religious population is 180 million, which numerically exceeds the population of Japan. In other words, it affects the majority of the population.

However, such a change in the interpretation of the law was made by a limited number of people within the government. In Prime Minister Kishida’s written response (February 9) to a question submitted by House of Councillors Member Satoshi Hamada (January 31), no Cabinet decision was made, nor were details disclosed about deliberations within the government.

Opposition parties, which normally keep a close watch on “state power,” see nothing wrong with this. When the Prime Minister’s response to the change in interpretation was elicited at the House of Councillors Budget Committee, Hiroyuki Konishi, a member of Constitutional Democratic Party, said, “There should be limits to flip-flopping (on policies),” but he did not pursue the matter of the change in interpretation.

Later, at a speaking event in August 2023, Konishi said, “(I told Kishida he) should say that he changed his mind, that illegal acts under civil law can be applied. I said I wouldn’t pursue that matter, and Prime Minister Kishida said exactly (what I suggested).” The video (of his claim) spread on X (formerly Twitter) and other sites. Opposition parties regularly raise chants such as, “We will not let the government run amok,” but they have now set the stage for the government TO run amok.

Over the course of Japan’s 2015 Security Legislation, opposition parties vehemently opposed the Cabinet decision that changed the interpretation of the Constitution to allow the limited exercise of rights to collective self-defense, and viewed then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as an enemy, accusing him of “Abe politics.” They resisted (Abe’s change) using delay tactics in the Diet, and they staged daily protests outside the House.

The justification to revoke the security-legislation-based Cabinet decision was what started the “opposition coalition” supported by the then-Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the leading opposition party at the time, which had an eye toward allowing the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) to participate in the government. Conversely, the opposition coalition supported problematic procedures concerning the change in the interpretation of the Religious Corporations Act that lacked a Cabinet decision, which could undermine the Constitution’s guarantee on freedom of religion.

The political forces rallying around the opposition coalition share Tetsuya Yamagami’s views—the defendant who shot Abe—that “Abe and FFWPU had close ties.” After the incident, they opposed Abe’s state funeral and criticized “contacts” between the LDP and FFWPU and its affiliated organizations such as International Federation for Victory over Communism. It can be said that they blamed (FFWPU ties) as a source for attacking conservative politics during the Abe administration, while also using them as grounds to exercise the right to raise questions against FFWPU and request a dissolution order.

However, in a democracy, procedures matter. Isn’t there a problem here?

Before World War II, opposition parties invited the military to run rampant. In the Imperial Diet of 1930, the opposition party, the Rikken Seiyukai (Association of Friends of Constitutional Government), attempted to corner the government of Prime Minister Osachi Hamaguchi’s Good Governance Party by pursuing accusations that they “violated the supreme command” at the London Naval Conference. Dissatisfied with disarmament, public sentiment and mass media were provoked, adding to the tension in those days where the path to war became unpreventable. Are not the ruling and opposition parties and the mass media similar in their request for a dissolution order?

(Religion and Politics Reporting Team)

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